Cisco is ceasing development of its network access control client software, called Cisco Trust Agent, and will submit the code to the open-source community.
Although Cisco will continue to develop network access control (NAC), critics see the move as a concession that Microsoft will now provide network access control on the desktop.
Cisco and Microsoft formed a partnership last September to ensure that Cisco's NAC and Microsoft's network access protection (NAP) will interoperate. This deal appears to have resulted in Cisco surrendering its grip on the desktop market to Microsoft. If NAP becomes the preferred software at the desktop for the two companies, it would make Cisco Trust Agent (CTA) largely redundant.
"CTA will be something that's open source. That's just logically where it should end up," Bob Gleichauf, chief technology officer of Cisco's security group, told InfoWorld. "We don't want to be in the CTA business, so we're going to just open it up."
But some observers are cynical about Cisco's motives. The Trusted Computing Group said that open-sourcing CTA was of little use to the open-source community unless Cisco also opened up its NAC protocols.
Both NAC and NAP carry out similar functions, which include checking that a device connecting to a network meets a pre-defined set of security criteria before allowing it to transmit data.